Mummies in Downton Abbey?

(SPOILER ALERT—Although everybody who cares has seen it by now, haven’t they?)

My little world was rocked last week by the death of Matthew Crawley in the Season Three finale of Downton Abbey. For a Downton fan girl, it was a rough evening.

And it reminded me of an interesting fact I stumbled across during research for my work in progress, a connection between the Edwardian-tinged aristocratic life of Downton Abbey and my tale of four modern kids who travel through time to ancient Egypt—the reign of Tutankhamun, to be specific. Surprising, right?

Downton Abbey is a fictional creation, but Highclere Castle, where the show is filmed, is very real. It’s the hereditary seat of the Earls of Carnarvon, and many details of the show are drawn from its history. And like Lord Grantham’s fictitious heir, the real 1920’s Earl of Carnarvon met a stunning end.

Howard Carter’s 1922 discovery of King Tut’s tomb is legendary. The world had never seen such a rich collection of burial goods, and the newspapers of the day exploded with tales of exotic adventure and ancient treasures. When several of the people connected with the tomb died over the next few months, stories of a Mummy’s Curse began circulating that still live in our collective imagination.

What does this have to do with Downton Abbey?

Lord Carnarvon funded Howard Carter’s expedition and was present when the tomb was opened. A few months later, he died in Egypt from an infected mosquito bite—a death many attributed to the Mummy’s Curse.

Just imagine Lord Grantham supporting the efforts of a determined archaeologist, traveling to Egypt to witness the opening of a newly discovered tomb and then dying, sparking whispers that he’d succumbed to the Mummy’s Curse. We’d think the writers had lost their minds, which is why truth is stranger than fiction.

Then again, the way the show’s been going, who knows? If Lord Grantham develops a sudden interest in Egyptology, I’m going to be worried. Season Four begins in 1922, after all.


20 thoughts on “Mummies in Downton Abbey?

  1. Lisa Medley

    I haven’t seen Downton Abbey at all but the conclusion and comparison you’ve presented is compelling to say the least! Maybe you should be writing for these shows! Very interesting! 🙂

    1. Sharon Keeling Davis Post author

      I love history. It’s overflowing with drama and conflict. Whether I’m reading a modern textbook or an early medieval chronicle, the scenes play out in my imagination and keep me full of story ideas.

  2. Beth Carter

    I haven’t started the series and think I’m the only one on earth, sans Lisa, who hasn’t. I think curses and all mysterious things are fascinating. I am not a history buff but you make it sound interesting, something my coach/history teacher did not!

  3. Russell keeling

    The often fuzzy and sometimes moving line between fact and fiction is at least part of the reason that historical fiction is so interesting–and challenging. I love reading well-researched fiction!

  4. Jill Haugh (@JillHaugh)

    Oooh! Delicious post! Downton AND King Tut all wrapped in one. (Yes, I know puns are the very lowest point of humor.) So nice to meet you and discover your fun blog. Thanks for following me on Twitter though I’m a lazy lout when it comes to that bird. Feel free to stop on by my little nut-tree if you’d like. That’s my home nest.
    I’m also in the backside of my second MG novel about a 12 year old girl who, while staying in Glastonbury, England discovers she is a Dreamwalker and must go back to 1891 to save her thrice-great Grandmother from certain demise at the hands of an evil Fey.)
    Tissues please. I think I just wrote my first twitter-pitch.
    ~Just Jill

    1. S. D. Keeling Post author

      After the way the last season ended, I have mixed feelings about watching again. I don’t like having my heart ripped out! Oh, who am I kidding? Of course I’m going to watch!

  5. Ti

    In my next life I’m going to be archaeologist. I love stories of Egypt and King Tut discoveries. My favorite museum is The Field Museum in Chicago. They told me once I should come work there. Kind of a long commute. I love your style of writing and the information you share. Thanks for stepping up to ORA too. Let me know if I can help you.

    1. S. D. Keeling Post author

      LOVE the Field Museum. Haven’t been there in many years, though. I think we might need a family trip to Chicago! Better wait for the 3-year-old to get a bit more mature, though.

  6. sarakayjordan

    Love Downton! I too was crushed by Matthew’s death. I’m looking forward to the drama of next season. I agree, part of Downton’s charm is the accuracy of the historic details. Love it.


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